Investigations of hundreds of police officers have been launched over the potential misuse of social media guidelines over a 5 year period, highlighting the rising importance of staff training and awareness around information security policies.
Research shows that out of 828 cases reported from 2009 to February this year, 14% of investigations led to no further action being taken. On the other hand, 9% of cases resulted in dismissal, retirement or resignation.
Some examples of cases:
- A written warning was sent to a Devon and Cornwall Police community support officer who posted photos on Facebook posing with weapons
- A written warning was given to a Gwent Police officer after inappropriately asking a female member of the public to be his friend on Facebook during a house visit
- A civilian member of staff from Lancashire resigned due to “excessive and inappropriate use of the internet during working hours”, which involved online auction sites, internet banking and social networking.
- A constable was found to have posted “confidential information concerning an upcoming police operation”
Greater Manchester police reported the most investigations into the breach of conduct (88). West Midlands had the second most (74), followed by the Met (69).
The College of Policing’s code of ethics suggest that “nothing you publish online can reasonably be perceived by the public or your policing colleagues to be discriminatory, abusive, oppressive, harassing, bullying, victimising, offensive or otherwise incompatible with policing principles.”
Chief Constable Alex Marshall, the College of Policing chief executive, stated “There is no place in policing for officers who abuse the trust placed in us by the public.”
“Everyone in policing has to remember that if you’re not prepared to put it in a local newspaper with your name at the bottom, then don’t say it on social media.”